By: Bob Northam
Bob Northam is the author of The ABC's of the Big D: My Life on Dialysis, a humorous look at the lifestyle, personal, and work issues faced by dialysis patients. Bob is a longtime dialysis patient who recently retired from a Fortune 500 company, where he was VP, Finance. He and his wife Donna have two adult children and one grandson.
Clearly, when you're responsible for your own dialysis treatments, as in home hemodialysis, you don't want to drop the ball on any aspect of the process.
Which can be problematic when you suffer from a lifelong affliction known in the scientific community as "the dropsies."
If I were to write a detailed description of this condition, it would read something like this:
"The unfortunate tendency to lose one's grip at highly inopportune times."
My wife found out that I had this disorder back when we were in the dating stage. And she still went on to marry me. Go figure.
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We were in a grocery store and she was buying dessert for a holiday dinner party that we were invited to in the coming weekend.
She picked up some elaborately frosted cupcakes with a holiday design.
"Will you please hold the box," she asked after getting them from the bakery. "I don't want to just leave them in the cart, the frosting might get smooshed."
"Oh sure," I said with a lot more confidence than I really felt.
I was walking around, holding the box, thinking that, ah, I had this. Nothing to worry about.
Then, we rounded a corner and I must have been too casual about my responsibility because I suddenly felt my grip loosen just a little bit. Knowing my prior history in such circumstances, I panicked, tried to re-acquire my hold on the box, squeezed a little tighter, which caused it to fall further out in front of me. I lunged trying to keep the box from falling, but it was too late.
The box with the cupcakes hit the floor with a plop, and I couldn't stop my forward momentum and fell face first into the lid, hitting it with such force that the frosting oozed out the sides and coated my cheeks and nose.
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I looked like the Duke of Swirl from Candyland with frosting sideburns.
I looked up and my future wife was just staring at me in disbelief, along with a dozen or so other customers.
Not knowing what else to do, I scooped up some icing off my cheek and tasted it.
"Hmm. Frosting tastes a little buttery," I said. She just shook her head and walked away.
So, all through our home hemo training as we were determining which steps in the setup process each of us would be responsible for, the wife was trying to avoid having me do anything that required carting any equipment or accessories any distance longer than a couple of feet.
My primary tasks had to do with setting up the machine and staying away from anything breakable.
For a while, the process was hunky dory, and the setup was going swimmingly.
Then, about our second week into training, our teaching nurse threw a monkey wrench into the whole routine.
"Let's have Bob collect the supplies today, and Donna, you can set up the machine," she said.
My wife immediately sensed danger. "But you have to carry the supplies almost ten feet over to the chair," she said.
The nurse thought that was odd, but she said, "I want both of you to have some experience with every aspect of the setup."
The wife still wasn't convinced, but I was game. "Sure, I'll give it a try," I said.
I went over to the counter and, thinking about minimizing the chances for disaster, loaded all my supplies on top of the setup mat. Those of you on home hemo know that the supplies include needles, Band-Aids, gauze, tape, gloves, syringes, and a bottle of heparin.
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I had the whole kitten caboodle on the mat and was holding it by its sides.
The nurse said, "Very good," but the wife looked like she was ready to hurl.
I was about half way to the chair when the nurse blurted out, "Don't forget the alcohol pads!"
This caused me to suddenly change direction and the heparin bottle started sliding toward the edge of the mat. Staying consistent with my tendency to panic under these circumstances, I grabbed for the bottle and all the other supplies went flying.
I tried to catch the needles and lost my focus on the hep. I bobbled the bottle several times, dropped the needles, bobbled the hep bottle again, reached for the needles, and then the hep bottle smashed into a million pieces on the floor.
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After what seemed like an eternity of just staring at the mess in stunned silence, the nurse started laughing, which eventually spread to the wife and then me.
"Can't say I didn't warn you," said my wife when she could take a breath.
Needled to say, my setup responsibility now only includes fixing the lines and dealing with other parts that are attached and not subject to traumatic impact.